The power of prevention

Lisa Fisher, Health Promotion Specialist

Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Indeed, prevention is the key to avoiding health problems. Yet our society still struggles to understand the importance of primary prevention.

There are three levels of prevention: primary, secondary and tertiary. Primary prevention aims to prevent disease or injury by eliminating exposure to hazards and altering unsafe or unhealthy behaviours. This involves education about healthy habits.

Once a disease or injury has occurred, secondary prevention aims to reduce the impact by treating it in a timely manner and implementing strategies for people to return to their original health. An example of this is regular mammograms for breast cancer detection.

Finally, when an illness or injury is ongoing and has lasting effects, tertiary prevention tries to minimize the impact on a person’s quality of life and life expectancy (e.g. vocational rehabilitation program).

The Health Promotion office at 4 Wing focuses on primary prevention, to work toward having healthy and fit Canadian Armed Forces members. Canada’s Declaration on Prevention and Promotion “reflects the important role that health promotion and disease and injury prevention play in improving the health of Canadians.” Chronic diseases and injuries still remain the main cause of death, disease and disability in Canadians, and a large proportion of these can be prevented or their onset can be delayed.

Health Promotion at 4 Wing focuses on four pillars of health. Social Wellness focuses on positive interpersonal relationships and communication, family violence prevention and awareness, mental fitness and suicide awareness, and management of stress and anger. Nutritional Wellness focuses on maintaining a healthy weight, and providing education on hydrating and fuelling your body for physical activity. Addictions Awareness and Prevention focuses on understanding and preventing addictions in alcohol, other drugs, gambling and gaming, as well as tobacco cessation. Injury Prevention and Active Living focuses on preventing injuries as a result of sports and physical activity, occupational hazards and more.

We also provide educational opportunities, campaigns, and activities focused on promoting healthy lifestyles, so if you have an idea for a challenge or activity in your unit, talk to us!

Are you wanting to make a change but unsure how to tackle the concept of primary prevention? We have good news for you! You can kick start your summer in a healthy way by taking part in this year’s Wing Commander’s Summer Challenge, starting on May 18 after the Wellness Walk. This summer’s challenge, brought to you by Health Promotion and the Fitness and Sports Department, will provide you with opportunities to practice primary prevention throughout our four pillars. With great prizes available and amazing support from the PSP staff, you won’t want to miss this.

If you’re interested in learning more about how Health Promotion can help you or your unit reduce your risk of disease and injury, contact us at (780)840-8000 extension 6958. We are happy to provide briefings, workshops, and support for unit challenges.


Government of Canada (n.d.). Creating a healthier Canada: Making prevention a priority. A declaration on prevention and promotion from Canada’s Ministers of Health and Health Promotion/Healthy Living. Retrieved from

Institute for Work & Health (April 2015). Primary, secondary and tertiary prevention. Retrieved from

National Defence and the Canadian Armed Forces (n.d.). Health promotion activities. Retrieved from